Queen Elizabeth II’s Reign of Dignity

Queen Elizabeth II at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, England, in 2019.


Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrates her platinum anniversary this weekend, has ruled more than a quarter of America’s unruly existence. As she reflects on her experiences of the United States and its people over 70 years as monarch, she may notice how little has changed. Their first prime minister, Winston Churchill, had an American mother. Your current prime minister, Boris Johnson, was born in New York and only gave up his US citizenship in 2016. Today, as in the 1950s, Britain is at odds with France and is closely allied with the US against Russia. One of the Queen’s relatives – not her uncle Edward VIII, but her grandson Prince Harry – has complained in American media that his family doesn’t understand him.

Since the Queen’s accession in 1952, US-UK ties have intensified at every level, from military and intelligence coordination to politics, finance and entertainment. Two of the last three presidents are children of subjects of their father George VI: Barack Obama on his father’s side and Donald Trump on his mother’s side. Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle continues the transatlantic fusion that has lasted since Randolph Churchill’s marriage to Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome. So did the Queen’s Zoom visits with her great-grandchildren to Montecito, California.

Her Majesty might accept that Dean Acheson was right in 1962 when he said Britain was no longer strong enough to act as an independent mediator between Russia and the US. But she may question Acheson’s statement that Britain “has lost an empire but has not yet found a role.” After 1945, Churchill understood, Britain’s global role was to be America’s wingman. Now 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth’s role is to be a key member of the ground crew. She and Henry Kissinger, who just turned 99, are among the few public figures who can remember the 1956 Suez Crisis, which reaffirmed the Cold War pecking order.

With the US established as the West’s “Top Gun,” all 14 Prime Ministers from Elizabeth II have played Anthony Edwards Goose to Tom Cruise’s Maverick. Boris Johnson has assumed this role in Ukraine, as Margaret Thatcher did in the Cold War and Tony Blair after 9/11. The European Union’s disorderly response to the war in Ukraine shows that the UK is America’s most trusted European ally and that Brexit has realigned Britain with the transatlantic alliance.

Only the Pope has as much soft power as the Queen, and he lacks, to paraphrase Stalin, a seat on the United Nations Security Council and a nuclear deterrent for a second strike. Tea with Her Majesty remains the ultimate photo opportunity, and British diplomats traded it with American presidents as eagerly as their ancestors sold Indian tea to the colonies. Queen Elizabeth has met 13 of the last 14 US Presidents, beginning with Truman on her 1951 visit to America when she was still a princess. In 2021, President Biden drank tea at Windsor Castle. The oddball was President Lyndon Johnson, although it’s possible they met at a state dinner during their visit in 1957, when Johnson was Senate Majority Leader.

Much has changed for the better in the US over the past 70 years, but Queen Elizabeth would not see a nation satisfied with itself. Improving race relations in America would have been almost unthinkable in 1952. But the Queen, like many of America’s friends, may wonder why racial politics continue to divide the people.

Her Majesty’s exalted status has not protected her from the social changes of recent decades. The royal family is now like any British or American family: divorces, feuds, money problems, shady deals. Like America’s first families, Britain’s first families struggled to lead by example. Perhaps the Queen is relieved that while Prince Andrew was dating Jeffrey Epstein, at least his emails didn’t show up on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

As Britain’s royal institution continues to stumble, the family, the fundamental institution of society, has fallen apart around the world since the 1950s. The Queen, who admired Billy Graham, may be dismayed at the decline in US public morals and the debilitating influence of Christianity in particular. She could suggest that Americans honor their duty to God and to each other, but protocol forbids her to say so.

This reluctance puts her closer to 1952 than 2022. Still, in some ways, the Queen has become more American than her heavily Americanized subjects. More than anyone else, at least until the Kardashians, the queen has lived in the spotlight. For more than seven decades, the world’s most English woman became the doyenne of media celebrity based on the American model. Perhaps it was inevitable that Meghan and Harry would open a family franchise in Hollywood.

Mr Green is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His most recent book is The Religious Revolution: The Birth of Modern Spirituality, 1848-1898.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/queen-elizabeth-reign-of-dignity-platinum-jubilee-reign-majesty-united-kingdom-royal-11654098843 Queen Elizabeth II’s Reign of Dignity

Alley Einstein

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